What the hell does this have to do with the United States and Iraq? Bear with me.
Essentially, he was the LTG Petraeus of his day, fighting the raggedy Dutch rebels for imperial Spain. He was, by all accounts, a brilliant commander, who used every tool in the 16th/17th Century commanders' box: bribery, threats, naked force, diplomacy and in the end managed to pacify much of the Netherlands for Phillip of Spain.
And in the end, it meant absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing. Because the outcome of the Eighty Years' War was the impoverishment and fall of the Spanish Empire of Columbus, Cortez, Balboa and Pizarro. A fall that has lasted almost to this day: parts of rural Spain are as poor, backwards and brutal as Central Asia.
Why does this matter to us?
I've discussed below how our invasion was intended to accomplish the goals that the guys over at the Project for a New American Century set out quite plainly: project American power, secure a "central position" in the Middle East, defenstrate a voluble enemy of Israel and by doing so cow the Palestinian militants.
AND how the sad reality is that this is going to continue for years. The American people are not informed enough or vested enough to demand change. Dubya and Co. will not change (frankly, they haven't abandoned the maximalist goals I outlined above) and after the Newt/Clinton Impeachment Farce that option is off the table for a generation. Short of catching Dubya screwing Condi over the Oval Office desk AND Dead-Eye Dick passing nuclear secrets to the Israelis while engaging in bondage scenes with senate pages the chance any D.C. pol will risk impeachment is nil; it has the stench of partisan politics now and will until this class of Congresscritters is twenty years in the grave.
Well. That's it: I'm done with Iraq and war for the next couple of years. I have given you my best hypothesis on what is in our future. I mourn the past, loathe the present, and peer dimly into the future with cringing and fear.
And again, I can't leave you better than with the crystalline brilliance of the words of Brian Turner's "Here, Bullet", this time from his poem "Night in Blue":
What do I know of redemption or sacrifice, what will I have
to say to the dead – that it was worth it,
that any of it made sense?
I have no words to speak of war.
I never dug graves in Talafar.
I never held the mother crying in Ramadi.
I never lifted my friend’s body
when they carried him home.
I have only the shadows under the leaves
to take with me, the quiet of the desert,
the low fog of Balad, orange groves
with ice forming on the rinds of fruit.
I have a woman crying in my ear
late at night when the stars go dim,
moonlight and sand as resonance
of the dust of bones, and nothing more.